Bible classes are barred

June 5, 1998

BLACK church leaders have condemned the Further Education Funding Council over moves to break up a national community partnership with Bilston Community College, which provides education for "thousands of ethnic minority students".

Church Partners, an organisation representing the majority of Britain's black-led churches, including the Church of God of Prophesy, works in partnership with the West Midlands college, which provides bible study classes and other further education courses.

But the exclusive national deal, which means that Bilston provides courses outside its region, breaches new FEFC rules whichstate that colleges should look to work only in their own localities.

The church group has now written to FEFC chief executive David Meville complaining that the break-up of the partnership would lead to the closure of classes, as many colleges had already indicated that they were not interested in working with the church group in their regions.

The church had hoped to develop a national "church college" with Bilston and said the moves by the FEFC would "seriously undermine the credibility of what has been achieved so far".

Frank Reeve, deputy principal at Bilston, who has written to the FEFC, said: "The whole point is that this arrangement is one way of involving thousands of ethnic minority students in lifelong learning. It is a shame such initiatives are put at risk by policy changes."

A spokesman for the FEFC said: "We have been clear in saying to colleges that we expect them to work first and foremost in their local communities." Some bible classes may not be eligible for public funding, he added.

The Church of God of Prophesy is an Evangelical, Pentecostal church founded in America. A Cult Information Service spokeswoman said: "Bible studies would not mean academic examination of the scriptures because the Bible, for them, is not an issue for debate."

The Church of God of Prophesy declined to comment.

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